“In the face of the prevailing financial crisis, the urgency for us all is to work closely together” -Interview with Kazumi Ikeda-Larhed, Head, Partnerships and Cooperation Unit, AfDB
Question: Press reports show that the Partnership Forum which the AfDB organized in March 5-6, 2009 brought together 70 donors and partners to inform partners of various cooperation opportunities with the institution, and attempt to strengthen partnerships for economic development and regional integration. Did the AfDB achieve its objectives in convening the meeting?
Answer: As many of the participants indicated at the closing session, the two-day Partnership Forum in Tunis was highly received as a timely and meaningful gathering in the sense that, we, the Bank Group and our traditional and new partners exchanged views very candidly on our partnerships and cooperation. We were also able to update our partners on the current strategy of the AfDB and the progress of Trust Fund reform, progress of various existing Trust Funds and their additional resource needs. We presented and discussed the newly proposed multi-donor Thematic Funds and their strategic alignment, technical assistance needs, co-financing opportunities with the AfDB as well as the status of institutional partnership arrangements. The Partnerships and Cooperation Unit compiled a working document “AfDB Partnership and Cooperation Opportunities” in time for this Forum, which gives an overview of various cooperation avenues with the Bank (AfDB). This document was very well received not only by our external partners, but equally by our internal user departments, since this kind of Bank-wide comprehensive document never existed in the past. We consider it a landmark document which will be updated regularly and would serve as a very useful knowledge tool related to the Bank’s partnerships and cooperation.
Question: Donors did not pledge any amount at the event. Should the Bank be concerned?
Answer: It was not intended to be a pledging meeting, however, donors had indicated certain areas to support such as private sector development, infrastructure, water, the Governance Trust Fund, Microfinance Trust Fund, and the South-South Cooperation Trust Fund
Question: Partners expressed a renewed interest in strengthening cooperation with the AfDB. How enthusiastic is the Bank in capitalizing on this opportunity?
Answer: The very purpose of organizing this Partnership Forum was to convince our partners, both in the public and private sectors, that the African Development Bank should be the first development partner of choice on the Continent. The key approach is always to fully inform our existing and potential partners of what we need and why we think they should partner with us. I believe that we managed to convey to our partners the fact that the Bank is moving ahead and, in the right direction through continued efforts to be more focused in meeting the needs of regional member countries. In the face of the prevailing financial crisis, the urgency for us all is to work closely together. We are extremely keen to deepen and widen our partnerships for Africa. At sideline meetings during the Forum, several partners informally expressed their willingness to provide new resources to strengthen cooperation with the Bank, through existing or new Trust Funds as well as the co-financing or technical assistance. We will definitely capitalize on the renewed spirit of cooperation with our partners at the Partnership Forum.
Question: The parliaments in some countries have had intense discussions on this subject as the crisis is affecting their own communities and may affect the ability of some donors to meet their pledges in contributing to the various Bank Group’s Trust Funds. How is the AfDB preparing to deal with this new challenge?
Answer: We continue to accelerate our needs-based resource mobilization vis-à-vis our partners. So far, we have not yet seriously suffered from the negative impact of the crisis in terms of new resources being provided for our Trust Funds. In fact, as a follow-up to the Forum, several partners have already indicated that they are ready to provide specific amounts this year, which are quite substantial. Since the needs in Africa are rapidly increasing due to the crisis, we are ready to mobilize additional resources more than ever. For this, our communications and dialogues with our partners are being intensified this year. The Partnership Forum was a part of our strategic communication efforts with our partners.
Question: As the AfDB enters the implementation phase of its 2008-2012 Medium-Term strategy amidst a deepening global financial crisis, do you foresee a stronger partnership between the donor community and the AfDB?
Answer: We don’t have any other choice but to strengthen our partnerships and cooperation, in both the public and private sectors. For example, more and more new private sector institutions are coming to us, expressing a keen interest in collaboration on ICT development in Africa. The Accra Action Plan also calls for more synergies and coordination among development partners to maximize aid effectiveness and efficiency and the development impact on the ground. I believe that the other side of any crisis always brings a new opportunity, which we must seize.
Question: In what ways does the Partnerships and Cooperation Unit intend to strengthen this relationship with AfDB partners?
Answer: Organization of the Partnership Forum was one most recent case in point. We are looking into new ways to enhance more coordinated engagements with our co-financiers to accelerate co-financing projects. We are ensuring needs-based resource mobilization as well as accelerated utilization of Trust Funds to leverage and facilitate the core operations of the Bank. The Bank has 22 donor-supported Technical Experts and secondees in place, and 30 new Technical Experts and secondees are being established with various partners. These experts assigned to such Departments as Governance, Infrastructure, Private Sector, Water, Fragile States, Environment, Results and Knowledge Management in the Bank will surely strengthen our collaborative relations with our partners.
Question: How is the South-South Trust Fund different from other southern regional initiatives like the DBSA? Does it collaborate with other regional corporations and, can other financial institutions participate in its programs?
Answer: The South South Cooperation Trust Fund is being proposed in response to increasing and urgent demands from our RMCs for the Bank to play catalytic and facilitative roles to foster this cooperation modality, whether among Middle-income countries or between Middle Income Countries and less developed regions. For example, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) team has earlier this week visited us to precisely request us to partner with them in promoting their “Knowledge Management for Africa”. What they see as a merit and advantage in partnering with AfDB is our comprehensive membership in Africa, covering 53 African countries, as well as our intimate knowledge of socio-economic development issues and extensive network with various stakeholders, including regional development banks and regional centers of excellences on the Continent. Recently, the South African Banking Association also came to us offering their expertise in Public-private partnerships and capacity building in financial/banking sector in Africa. Likewise, they see us a credible partner to facilitate intra-African cooperation and development knowledge sharing. This new Trust Fund will be an instrument enabling us to do just that.